Falcons vs. Saints Preview


December 26, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) defends against Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 45-16. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Sunday, the biggest rivalry in the NFC South, and one of the biggest rivalries in the entire NFL will be renewed when the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons head down to New Orleans to take on the 3-5 Saints. The record of the Saints isn’t particularly good, but that won’t remove one bit of the hate that these two teams have for each other. And make no mistake, these teams really despise each other.

The past few seasons, the Falcons have been dominated by the Saints. Not necessarily by score, by nearly always in the win-loss column. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, the Falcons have only defeated the Saints twice. So in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era, the Falcons  are 2-6 against New Orleans. One piece of good news is that the Falcons have one once both in New Orleans and in Atlanta. The Falcons can play the role of road warrior.

The Saints are gaining more total yards than the Falcons at 386 yards per game compared to the Falcons 376 ypg. The Saints and Falcons are averaging 305 to 278 ypg in the air respectively, but the Falcons get the edge on the ground with 98 ypg compared to New Orleans 81. Offensively, both teams move the ball very well, and while the Falcons have more balance, the Saints simply sling the ball around more.

The real kicker is defensively. Look at the total defensive yards the Falcons are giving up in comparison to the Saints. The Falcons are 19th in the league giving up 356 yards per game, 127 on the ground and 228 through the air. Not great statistics, but when your offense is moving the ball well, it really helps offset things. And you can’t argue with the Falcons results up to this point in the season.

The Saints are giving up 472 yards per game, including 176 on the ground and 294 through the air. Believe it or not, 294 is 28th in the league. But 176 ypg on the ground and 472 overall are both 32nd in the NFL by a bullet. And it’s really not close.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out. This is just a brief statistical overview, but it’s really telling how these two teams play. The Falcons have a hard time stopping teams, but they also move the ball really well, and things just work in their favor as they have offensive balance, and seem to prevent other teams from simply rolling into the endzone.

New Orleans has a solid offense, but they have a couple problems. First, they don’t have much balance, and their stable of running backs isn’t particularly outstanding. But even more than that is that the Saints defense is just miserable. Absolutely terrible. Historically bad. Probably the worst defense in NFL history. New Orleans is the first team to give up 400 or more yards per game in the first eight games of a season in NFL history. On top of that, they gave up 513 and 530 yards to the Buccaneers and Broncos respectively a couple weeks ago. If I’m not very much mistaken, that’s the first time in NFL history that a defense has given up 500 or more yards in back to back games. That’s really bad, and to be honest the Saints are a revolving door allowing people to move the ball and score points.

I know that yardage stats aren’t everything, and that it really comes down to scoring stats. But these numbers for these two teams are so very telling that not much other argument is necessary. It will be interesting to see how the Falcons defend the Saints, but more interesting to see if New Orleans can possibly get a stop on the Falcons offense.